Jan's Blog
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August 2005
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Kids Go Back to School … Parents Return to Work
Filed under: Job Search
Posted by: site admin @ 1:25 pm

For many people, back-to-school and the first of September represent the true beginning of the new year. Earlier this month, I did a special for NBC on job search for parents returning to work (usually moms) after a period out of the work force raising their families. Consider these statistics: More than 5 million women and somewhere in the vicinity of 100,000 men are stay-at-home parents. Of this pool, nearly half a million return to work each year. The phrase coined to describe the mothers is "sequencing moms."

Here are the top 10 strategies for the classic example of a woman returning to work after spending an extended number of years raising her family.

1. The best way for a return-to-work candidate to begin the job search process is to create a list highlighting all experience (paid/unpaid) and specific skills. Consider all background—volunteer in school, parent-teacher organization, fundraising, church group (mention without denomination), town politics (again, mention without party affiliation), and sports activities. Draw experiences from these activities (organized a telethon, raised money for new library collection, spearheaded youth lacrosse club organization, chaired scholarship committee, etc.).

2. The return-to-work candidate must have an exceptional resume and, whether chronological or skills-based, should have a solid “Qualifications Profile” section with strong narrative and bullet points summarizing key qualifications for the targeted position. This should be edited to specifically suit different opportunities. A two-page resume is fine for the return-to-work candidate.

3. Save an objective statement for the cover letter and reiterate a match between experience/strengths and the requirements of the job.

4. Effective ways to address the gap: ACTIVE COMMUNITY VOLUNTEER/PARENT (1999-Present) … then highlight roles held: PTA Vice President, Smith Elementary School (2 years) … Playground Fundraising Chair (orchestrated effort to raise more than $40,000 for safe playscape) … Member (appointed), Conservation Commission (since 2002).

To address care-giving absences: CARE-GIVING SABBATICAL (2003-05) … Provided full-time care to elderly parent through end-stages of illness. Simultaneously maintained memberships in all professional associations and stayed fully current on industry knowledge through professional subscriptions and CEUs. (NOTE: If you haven’t taken a class in anything work-related in more than 8 or 10 years, consider an adult ed class or two in Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint as a start.)

5. Flush out all experience (including community/volunteer) with details about how you were successful … for a return-to-work sales professional, you could say, “Used exceptional relationship cultivation and management skills to build organization of more than 50 volunteers and sponsor Special Olympics Activity Day in community … spearheaded fundraising arm of organization through direct contacts with decision-makers at more than 20 corporate sponsors” with result-oriented details. Think of showing Challenge – Action – Result (“CAR” stories) in crafting these achievements on your resume.

6. Avoid over-use of bullets (the “laundry list” look) but don’t be too text-heavy or “densely written” either … a mix of succinct narrative with selective bullets is the best way to go.

7. Keep it professional! While you may reference volunteer/school-related activities heavily, do not list number of kids, birth date or place, marital status, or social security number.

8. Ensure a nice, clean layout, good use of white space, and a font 11 points or bigger in size for text. An off-white paper makes the most professional statement.

9. Proofread carefully (an understatement).

10. It’s vital to have an aggressive search plan—target family-friendly companies (every year, Working Mother magazine develops a list of 100 of the best companies for working mothers). Referrals by name are your best bet!

For those of you contemplating a return to the work force, I wish you every success!

– Jan Melnik, MRW, CCM, CPRW, President, Absolute Advantage

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Gearing Up for an Accelerated Job Search
Filed under: Job Search
Posted by: site admin @ 7:44 pm

It’s August 6 … Are You Ready to Execute a Post-Labor Day Accelerated Job Search? For the next few weeks, I’ll countdown some of the best strategies for preparing to launch an all-out offensive, that is, plan for a successful job search! If you’ve taken the opportunity to spend a week or two in quiet contemplation (interspersed around exciting travel adventures? tranquil getaway? or rewarding family vacation time), you’ve hopefully jotted a few notes down about what is important to you in terms of your next career move. This might take the form of "must-haves" in your next position, non-negotiable points or key criteria essential for you to say "yes" to an offer. If you haven’t done this exercise, even informally, or to add to the list you’ve already begun, you might consider self-brainstorming to come up with those attributes and environment you perceive to be critical to your professional happiness, personal job satisfaction, and long-term career management plans. Some ideas to contemplate (perhaps ranking 1 to 5 with 1 being not very important to 5 being absolutely essential):

With the answers (rankings) to those factors, and numerous others you’ve undoubtedly considered, you’ll be in a good position to move onto the next step in accelerated job-search planning over the next week or so!

– Jan Melnik, MRW, CCM, CPRW, President, Absolute Advantage

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